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6.18.2016


Forget Me / Hit Me / Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor
KATIE SCHMID


Poetry
42 pages
6” x 9” Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-0990903550
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback
Split Lip Press
Pennsylvania, USA
Available HERE
$10.00
Review by Do Nguyen Mai

Captivating in its surreal imagery, Katie Schmid’s tender, poignant writing in Forget Me / Hit Me / Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor invokes deep, slow-moving yet prevalent nostalgia for the American Midwest, pulling the sun below the evening horizon as the neighborhood’s children race home for dinner. Schmid’s poems are slow to punch, yet they build and build the same way rain fills a house—slowly but surely.

Forget Me / Hit Me / Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor begins by dragging readers to drown in both the pain and joy of remembering not only the past, but also such a place as the narrator’s memories of the Midwest.

6.17.2016


Waste
ANDREW F. SULLIVAN


Fiction  |  Novel
256 pages
Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1-938103-40-7
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback
Dzanc Books
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Available HERE
$15.95
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

Relentlessly depressing, depraved, dirty, disgusting. More d-words. Dig Dug. That last one is in there because Waste takes place in the 80s, and because Larkhill, Sullivan’s fictional stand-in for Oshawa, Canada, may as well be underground. Waste is, first and foremost, not your typical novel. It’s not your typical Pollock/Palahniuk shock-lit/grit-lit/meth noir, and it’s important to know that, to realize it, preferably before you read the book. Any number of readers could come away from this book without thinking, and they’d shelve the book as the one of the sadder, more ugly things they’ve ever laid eyes on.

6.09.2016


One True Loves
TAYLOR JENKINS REID

Fiction | Novel
352 pages
5.3” x 8.2” Paperback
Also available in ebook and audio formats
ISBN 978-1476776903
First Edition
Review Copy: Kindle Mobi
Washington Square Press
New York, New York, USA
Available HERE
$16.00
Review by Nicole Tone

Are our lives pre-determined? Is there one person we’re meant to be with? These are questions Taylor Jenkins Reid has been exploring in her novels over the past few years. Her most recent release, One True Loves, Reid explores not just the idea of “one true love” as the title suggests, but the idea that we live multiple lives within our own singular lifetime.

5.29.2016


The So-Called Sonnets
BRUCE McRAE

Poetry
84 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978-0-9792410-5-5
First Edition
Silenced Press
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Available HERE
$14
Review by Nicole Tone

Poetry, as with all things, can feel antiquated especially when following the traditional meters set forward by the Masters of our languages. Sonnets are supposed to follow a certain rhyming pattern, a certain number of beats per measure, as with any song. But in looking at tradition, and turning it on its head, great poets—contemporary Masters—are born. They don’t just write beautiful words but cut open their hearts and leave them to dry on the page. Bruce McRae’s The So-Called Sonnets does just this.

5.23.2016


I Am the Oil of the Engine of the World
JARED YATES SEXTON


Fiction  |  Stories
188 pages
6” x 9” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978-0-9909035-6-7
First Edition
Split Lip Press
Available HERE
$16.00
Review by Al Kratz

Listen up, World. Jared Yates Sexton has something important to say about the state you’re in and your future. A reader might not always like what he has to say about the world, but, since Sexton is a great writer, the reader will likely love how he says it. The collection of stories that the author self-describes as weird and the publisher calls experimental, I Am the Oil of the Engine of the World invokes a mixture of contradictory emotional responses. It is a funny yet scary, brutally honest yet hyperbolic distortion of reality. It’s satire at its best.

5.15.2016


Frottage & Even as We Speak
MONA HOUGHTON

Fiction  |  Two Novellas
172 pages
6” x 9” Perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978-0984578221
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback
What Books Press
Los Angeles, California, USA
Available HERE
$14.00
Review by Laura Citino

After the First World War ripped the continent to shreds, the artist Wassily Kandinsky made what many consider to be his most important works: his Kleine Welten, or “little worlds.” I’ve looked at a few of these in person, scattered as they are among the museums of the globe; they’re something to see. These prints are so named for Kandinsky’s belief that art depicted self-contained worlds, expressions of the cosmos in miniature. The prints themselves are beautiful and, of course, small: strokes of black, stipples of blue, abstract symbols that your mind easily arranges into oxygen, carbon, tree, animal, landscape. So much complexity, messy on the surface but with an undeniable internal logic. All in a print the size of your palm.

Mona Houghton’s two novellas, Frottage and Even as We Speak, work a similar magic. Though ostensibly taking place in the real world, both leave no doubt that the laws of that reality are skewed. Traumatic abuse, sudden tragedy, and insidious addictions have rendered these characters incapable of living in the world as we know it. They navigate these brave new realities with careful steps, their kleine Welten illustrated in rich, complex interiority.

4.30.2016


Roleplaying as Live-Action Fan Fiction
MATT MAGELSSEN-GREEN


Roleplaying games are the result of authors trying to convince you to do live-action fan fiction for them. A group of friends gets together and acts out characters in a universe and setting that someone else created, but interpreted for their purposes. It’s a process that is so seemingly simple that it’s easy to ignore all the transformations that occur when half a dozen people sit down to kill some Orks. These transformations are powerful enough that some argue they transcend fan fiction and become something else, as Jennifer Grouling Cover does in her book, The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games.

4.23.2016


Four Fathers
DAVE HOUSLEY, BL PAWELEK, BEN TANZER, & TOM WILLIAMS

Fiction  |  Poetry
145 pages
8” x 8.8” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN 978-1-941462-00-3
First Edition
Cobalt Press
Baltimore, Maryland
Available HERE
$15.00
Review by Al Kratz

Four Fathers is an enjoyable collaboration of four writers: Dave Housley, BL Pawelek, Ben Tanzer, and Tom Williams. Each lends his unique voice to themes of fatherhood covering both the aspects of having a father and of being a father.

The collection has a couple of other unique design elements. It combines a variety of forms: Two conventionally sized short stories by Tom Williams, Ben Tanzer’s flash collection, a poetry collection by BL Pawelek, and Dave Housley’s piece is a novella. Other than the novella, all of the pieces were told through second-person point of view.

4.21.2016




Condominium
DANIEL FALATKO

Fiction  |  Novel
264 pages
5½” x 8½” perfect-bound trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1939987365
First Edition
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Available HERE
$14.99
Review by Al Kratz

Condominium, by Daniel Falatko, is a partly comedic and lighthearted, somewhat existential and dramatic, novel about a week in the life of a couple who move into their dream million-dollar high-rise condominium with its Brooklyn skyline view over the East River. The story alternates points of view and experience between Charles and Sarah as they navigate multiple issues with their new lifestyle, including struggles in their career, a strange new neighbor, challenging relationships with friends, and recreational drug usage.

4.12.2016


A Conversation with Deek & Erin Rhew
MINDSOAK PODCAST INTERVIEW

The Mindsoak Project sat down with Erin and Deek Rhew, a husband and wife writing team looking forward to the “Rhewnation” of the civilized world. Erin is the author of the YA trilogy, The Fulfillment Series, and Deek is the author of Birth of an American Gigolo and 122 Rules.

Erin and Deek talk about how they met one another from across country, what it’s like to be married, and working with each other as writing partners; and they both give us insight into their writing style, their works of fiction, and their characters.





4.11.2016


Autoplay
JULIE BABCOCK

Poetry
82 pages
5” x 8” perfect-bound trade paperback
First Edition
ISBN 978-0988201347
Review Copy: PDF
MG Press
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Available HERE
$12
Review by Julia Hy

I wish you could place an ear to a shell
inside an ocean that never spills
and hear me.
(“Being Right,” p. 18)

Julie Babcock delivers an intense range of depth throughout her poetry collection, Autoplay. You feel the need to revisit each poem as it seems like there is always another meaning hidden in its pauses and punctuation that you may have missed. In poems such as “Music Lesson Ohio,” she relates the state to a young girl practicing for her first violin recital. You can read this either as an homage to Ohio itself and her experiences growing up there, or as the tenseness and perseverance of a young girl. You may even read further into it and find yourself focusing on the theme of discipline and strength found in femininity. Each poem offers so much more than what you see at your first glance.

3.16.2016


Your Sick: A Conversation with Carol Guess, Elizabeth J. Colen, & Kelly Magee
INTERVIEW BY EDMUND SANDOVAL



CAROL GUESS is the author of fifteen books of poetry and prose, including Darling Endangered, Doll Studies: Forensics, and Tinderbox Lawn. In 2014, she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University.

3.14.2016


Parade
MICHAEL GRAVES

Fiction | Novel
240 pages
6” x 9” Paperback
Also available in ebook formats
ISBN 978-1-937627-26-3
First Edition
Chelsea Station Editions
Available HERE
$9.99-$18.00
Review by Jonathan Harper

I met Michael Graves briefly at a book fair in Washington, D.C. This was several years ago, and I haven’t seen him since. I had just purchased a short story collection and was making small talk with two of the vendors I knew. Sitting to the side was a polite man with a boyish face who seemed to share my acquaintances. In an attempt to be as social as possible, I asked him if he were the new Lethe Press intern. Graciously, he smiled and said no, while my friends chuckled as if I had asked something very embarrassing. Only after I left did I realize that he was the author of the book I had just purchased right in front of him.

3.01.2016


A Conversation with Laura Ellen Scott
SELF-INTERVIEW BY LAURA ELLEN SCOTT



To usher in her stint as Monthly Guest Blog Editor on The Spark, LAURA ELLEN SCOTT talks to Laura Ellen Scott about mystery/crime novels, Death Valley, writing ideas, forthcoming books, genre wars, and closet YA fantasy writers. Laura is the author of the novel, Death Wishing, a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and Curio, a collection of 21 very short, creepy stories with illustrations by Mike Meginnis. She teaches fiction writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Her latest novel, The Juliet, will be released by Pandamoon Publishing on March 22, 2016. Later in 2016, Pandamoon Publishing will release The Mean Bone in Her Body, the first novel in a trilogy called the New Royal Mysteries, set in a college/prison town in central Ohio.

2.25.2016


The Blue Line
INGRID BETANCOURT

Fiction | Novel
368 pages
5.9” x 8.6” Hardcover
Also available in ebook and audio formats
ISBN 978-1594206580
First Edition
Review Copy: Hardcover
Penguin Press
City of Westminster, London; United States; and Canada
Available HERE
$27.00
Review by Nicole Tone

Told through a non-linear timeline, the reader is taken on a journey through Julia’s past and present and how her special gift—her ability to see into the future—simultaneously saved her life and, in a way, ended it. This book is not for the faint of heart; Betancourt goes into great detail about the truths of what it meant to live in Buenos Aires in the 1970s. For young Julia, this meant getting captured and tortured multiple times because she dared fight for what she thought was right. For modern day Julia, however, it is these very scars that would force Julia and Theo, with whom she’d been in love since she was fifteen, apart.

2.24.2016


Conspiracy of Beauty
CHRISTINA COLLINS

Poetry
38 pages
Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback
Gertrude Press
Portland, Oregon, USA
Available HERE
$8.00
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

The best books, whether poetry or prose, teach the reader how to read the work. Christina Collins’ debut collection of poetry does just that, and more. Its lines are universal lessons, ones you could apply not only to Conspiracy, but to all poetry, to life. Collins seems acutely aware of this, opening the collection with “Primer”:

A well-placed

break is a little jewel. Your breath
catches in your throat. Here is
a beautiful metaphor, the jewel at your throat.

2.23.2016


Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan
ROSIE FORREST

Fiction | Flash Fiction
56 pages
5.4” x 6.1” Letterpressed, side-stapled chapbook
ISBN 978-1-941628-01-0
First Edition
Review Copy: Chapbook
Rose Metal Press
Brookline, Massachusetts, USA
Available HERE
$12.00
Review by Leah Angstman

As a Michigan native, I was immediately intrigued by the title of this book. I’ve been to Cadillac, Michigan, and I know firsthand that there’s not a whole lot there worth inspiring a book. Yet, Midwestern-born Rosie Forrest captures the mood of it perfectly. ‘Ghost boxes,’ as it turns out, are what her protagonists call those empty box stores that swept into town, drove everything else out, then collapsed when we all realized they were just hanging out in the middle of nowhere, that we had to—ugh—drive to them, and that we could buy it all cheaper from Amazon, without leaving the couch.

2.19.2016


Not Dark Yet
BERIT ELLINGSEN

Fiction | Novel
216 pages
5&frac12” x 7&frac12” Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
Also available in ebook format
ISBN 978-1-937512-35-4
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback ARC
Two Dollar Radio
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Available HERE
$15.99
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

Not Dark Yet is hazy. Its protagonist, Brandon Minamoto, is a nebulous, enigmatic, young man living in a remote mountain cabin in a not-exactly-disclosed location. He is there for solitude, at less of a crossroads in his life than having reached the point where the pavement ends. It is an unspecified number of years in the future—though one wouldn’t necessarily firmly state it’s “our” future at all; it could as easily be an alternate present—and global warming has wreaked a havoc just a few shades shy of apocalyptic. This haziness is double-edged, wielded well in some ways but sometimes causing the book to lag a little. Shifting early from Brandon’s present to key points in his past, it’s difficult to place just where the novel is headed, where Brandon is headed, and what exactly is important. However, this does not appear to be unintentional. Instead, the shifting, and eventually the triggered flashbacks, lend to the reader experiencing the same sort of malaise and subtle disorientation that we can assume Brandon is experiencing. The trouble is just one of calibration—which is off a pinch.

2.16.2016


Haints Stay
COLIN WINNETTE

Fiction  |  Novel
222 pages
5.1” x 7.8” Perfect-bound Trade Paperback with Deckle Edge
ISBN 978-1-9375123-2-3
First Edition
Two Dollar Radio
Columbus, Ohio
Available HERE
$16.00
Review by Justin Lawrence Daugherty

Just Meat and Blood and Bone:
A Review of Haints Stay

The American Western is mythology. It is a representation. It’s hard to say what is or is not a Western. After performing in Italy, Buffalo Bill Cody’s stories were translated into Italian and, even later, his exploits were used in service of Italian fascism and nationalism, a tool to promote imperialism. Whatever the West was, the fetishizing of the West has produced any number of approximations that are most likely apocryphal.

2.15.2016


Hangover Breakfasts
NATHAN GRAZIANO

Fiction  |  Short Fiction
36 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” letterpressed full-color heavystock cover; sewn binding
ISBN 978-1-937073-38-1
First Edition
Limited edition of 100 sewn in wraps; 26 lettered hardcover
Bottle of Smoke Press
Dover, Delaware
Available HERE
$8.00
Review by Al Kratz

Hangover Breakfasts, by Nathan Graziano, is a great chapbook of 26 connected and addicting flash pieces that tell the story of a group of friends in their twenties, primarily at a lake house, usually drinking or doing drugs, always trying to discover if there will be more to their lives.

It is part Walden with drugs replacing transcendentalism, part On the Road with reality replacing the ideal, and part Jesus’ Son with a lighter, safer tone.